The numbers are amazing on their own. The Vancouver Aquarium is the largest marine wildlife museum in Canada. It is home to more than 70,000 animals, some 80,000 children take advantage of its school programs each year, volunteers donate around 58,000 hours of service a year and more than 35 million people have visited since its doors opened in 1956.
But it’s the actual wildlife — the whales, otters, snakes, dolphins and more — that amaze the hundreds of thousands who pass through the door of the aquarium each year, which is situated in the middle of Stanley Park just on the outskirts of downtown Vancouver.
The permanent marine animal displays are as diverse as the ocean itself. In the Amazon Rain Forest room, creatures slither, swim and splash around. Another features 26 species of frogs in the Frogs Forever exhibit, which also brings light to the extinction facing many of the amphibian species. There are also exhibits focusing on butterflies, belugas, killer whales, artic creatures, dolphins, anacondas, seals, crocodiles and more. The aquarium focuses heavily on species native to the Pacific Northwest. Yup, if it swims or lives in an ocean, lake, river or stream, there’s a good chance the Vancouver Aquarium has an informative display around it.
Train with the Animals
The aquarium is more than a place to just see marine wildlife. Through its Encounters program, visitors can touch, train, feed and even play with beluga whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions and sea otters. The daily programs (reservations recommended) last an hour or longer and are led by professional trainers. Packages can include action photography of your group and tons of educational and conservational information.
Marine Life in 4-D
Visiting an IMAX theatre is one thing, but the Vancouver Aquarium’s 4D Experience takes it a step further — the fourth dimension being the addition of sensory effects such as mist, scents, lighting and wind. These are coupled with a state-of-the-art theatre system that displays some of the best nature documentaries and films in the world, including the Planet Earth series.
Shows and Events
Throughout the year, the marine life housed in the Aquarium comes to life in the form of entertaining and educational shows that include the popular dolphin and beluga demonstrations, feedings, reef shark performances, and talks that focus on habitats, conservation and more. The various shows are generally scheduled every 45 minutes, and the aquarium also features special events regularly.
Since opening in 1956, the Vancouver Aquarium has not only been a leader in aquatic sciences, but it has also tripled in size thanks to a massive expansion in 1967. Over the years, its research and conservation programs have been groundbreaking. It was the first facility in the world to study a killer whale (1964), its researchers discovered a new species of shrimp in the Gulf Islands (1997) and it became the first aquarium to ensure that it would never result in the capture of a wild whale or dolphin (1996). It’s been a primary source of research, conservation and education since opening to the world and region.
The aquarium is all about teaching, whether it be to a tourist just in from a walk around the Seawall or a classroom full of children at an area elementary school. It offers numerous school lessons and visit options, student sleepovers, teacher resources for the classroom and even programs offered in French.
Research and Oceanwise
What good is an aquarium if it serves as a lesson in history rather than one that keeps its finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world’s waterways? With serious over-fishing problems in all corners of the world and the threat of mass extinction of various species at the hands of climate change, the Vancouver Aquarium is taking action and serving as a leader in research and conservation. Through research that focuses on marine mammals, sea lions, the Howe Sound and marine protection areas; creative programs such as Adopt an Orca; and toll free numbers to report wildlife sightings, it has been on the cutting edge of conservation since opening. It also designed Ocean Wise, a movement that certifies sustainably harvested seafood so consumers can order off a restaurant menu without concern.
Hours and InfoVancouver Aquarium
, 845 Avison Way, is open 9:30am–5pm daily. Call 604-659-3400 for information.
Vancouver Aquarium from big_fish on Vimeo.